By now, you likely have most things buttoned up for the Christmas shopping season. That means you have a secure and fast POS system in place, a Christmas marketing plan, and seasonal employees on tap for your busy season.
But as you consider new ways to sell safely, there’s an aspect of your business you should monitor closely every day — your inventory management. To ensure you’re making the most of the holidays this year, follow this mission-critical list to help you manage inventory.
1. Make sure you’ve made strategic inventory purchases
You’re the expert in your industry, so it’s likely you already have a hunch about what’s going to sell well this festive season. If you don’t, social media is the first place to look to get a picture of trending Christmas season inventory items.
Retail stores, in particular, should check Pinterest and Instagram to see what’s on people’s wishlists. Keep an eye on the type of aesthetic that’s popular this year to gain some holiday inventory tips. Use this information to inform the look and feel of your online store and in-store merchandising displays.
But that’s not enough. You should look at some hard numbers—that is, your historical sales data—to make the most informed inventory management decisions. Your Square Dashboard makes this simple. There, you can quickly get a picture of which items or category of items were your most popular last year to steer the direction of your new Christmas inventory list. For example, you may have sold out of initial mugs or items in the accessories category, like beach towels and sunnies. So, if you’re low on that sort of inventory this year, stock up now. “Sold out” equals a lost sale.
2. Sync your online and brick-and-mortar inventory
As the retail industry becomes increasingly omnichannel, it’s crucial to integrate software that can sync your brick-and-mortar and online inventory in real time. Changing reopening guidelines also make it more important to connect your in-store and online inventory management. This will help you quickly adjust if you have to sell primarily online, and it will also give your customers more opportunities to buy from you.
For instance, they may want to safely browse online and then head into your shop to buy or pick up items. Or, if something catches their eye in the store but they would prefer to purchase it online, you’ve provided that option.
If you don’t manage inventory to update in real time as items sell out, you may run into problems. At best, that sort of scenario makes for frustrated shoppers. At worst, it makes for customers who switch their loyalty to a store they see as more reliable.
3. Turn your store into a mini distribution centre
Once you connect your online and in-store inventory management, you may find that you need more space to fulfil holiday orders. One option is to temporarily turn part of your store into a retail distribution centre.
A retail distribution centre is simply a location where you process orders. With more space to help you fulfil orders, you’ll be able to ship and deliver items from your holiday inventory to customers quicker, especially if they’re local. You can also use it to allow customers to buy online and click & collect and participate in other safe shopping methods.
Repurposing part of your store into a warehouse can also allow you to process holiday returns quicker, if you allow customers to drop off returns at your store instead of mailing them back. If you have multiple locations, you can let customers click and collect their orders at the spot that’s most convenient.
Make sure to follow these tips for managing inventory while reconfiguring your store for retail fulfilment:
- You know exactly where in your store you’ll fulfil orders. A counter, backroom, or even the floor can serve as workstations.
- Your online and in-store inventory is synced. Make it easy for your employees to manage inventory and for customers to see what’s in stock.
- You’re all staffed up. You can ask existing store associates to help fulfil orders or you can hire new staff. With either route, make sure you properly train the team on retail fulfilment.
4. Monitor your real-time sales
Every day throughout the holiday season (and year-round, for that matter), you should have a sense of what’s selling well. One of the best Christmas inventory tips is to check your real-time Square sales data as well as your daily sales reports (you can do both on the go with the Square Dashboard app). This helps you make strategic marketing decisions.
Say, for example, your custom T-shirts are flying off the shelves. That’s a good indication you should promote that item on social media, and perhaps deploy a “going fast” email marketing campaign. You should also display that item front and centre in your store window—and feature it in your online store—to catch customers’ attention.
The Christmas shopping season can be a hectic time. To keep business running smoothly, manage inventory with extra care and attention throughout the shopping season.